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THE LONG GOODBYE

USA, 1973 (MIFF 1999, Mavericks)

Director: Robert Altman

Antiheroic, unshaven slob Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) lives in a contemporary Los Angeles that seems to have completely passed him by. Marlowe is perpetually mum­bling under his breath the mantra, "It's OK with me", not unlike Popeye, a cartoon character that director Altman would later bring to the screen with unfortunate results. A cigarette constantly dangles out the side of his smartass mouth. Marlowe's ostensible mission is to clear his friend Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton) of a murder charge.

Altman's modernist take on loyalty and morality, scripted by Leigh Brackett who worked on The Big Sleep (1946). portrays a seemingly passive and uncompre­hending figure who stands alone against a corrupt world, biding his time until an inevitable final reel payoff.

Technically adventurous—with lovely widescreen compositions, a constantly moving camera, extended lakes and a haunting theme song which is heard in end­less variations throughout the film—The Long Goodbye exudes a noirish atmosphere. Altman reinforces this noir mood through extensive use of Los Angeles locations, the presence of an enigmatic femme fatale (Nina Van Pallandt), a self-destructive alcoholic author (Sterling Hayden), a snivelling weed of a sanatorium proprietor, played by the excellent Henry Gibson, and a violent Jewish crime boss (director Mark Rydell). Arnold Schwarzenegger, billed as Arnold Strong, appears briefly as one of Marly Augustine's hired goons.

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